Hilton Bullish About India Market : Navjit Ahluwalia, Country Head & SVP, Hilton (India)
Navjit Ahluwalia, Country Head & SVP, Hilton (India) believes that expansion has to be based on market need, business returns, and as well as an opportunity to serve the Hilton Guests at the right place with the right brand.
Post your joining, what has been the agenda for India region?
Our aim is to make Hilton the most preferred hotel company (India) for all our owners, guests, investors, partners and team members. Hilton has a strong and unprecedented legacy of 100 years, and we want to leverage this in the Indian hospitality and lodging market. Our Hilton portfolio comprises of 14 world-class brands, and we hope to introduce a few more to India, currently we have 5 brands in India. The opportunity to increase our presence, offer best in class hospitality services to our discerning guests, bring increasing business value to our owners and partners, have a culture that nourishes best in class team members in our company are some of the key immediate priorities.
Do you plan to introduce more brands to India?
Yes, we are always looking at the right opportunities to bring more brands to India from our portfolio of 14 brands. All our brands are strong and serve a defined segment of guests across different regions of the world. We are exploring numerous opportunities within India market to introduce a few more of our brands - which we believe will add tremendous value in addition to the five brands already offering the warmth of hospitality to our guests in India.
Currently in India, we do not have a presence we would ideally like to have, however this offers a tremendous opportunity for guests, our team members, owners, investor and us. We have and continue to invest disproportionately (to our current presence) to put in place a robust infrastructure, team members across all key functions including above property sales and additional resources that will enable us to scale up swiftly and efficiently. We believe the added attention and time given to our existing business will augur well for our owners and potential investors as we ramp up our operations efficiently translating into higher returns for our partners and owners.
What is your take on the Indian hospitality market?
The Indian hospitality market is well poised to become the third largest lodging market in the world – in the near future. Given this trajectory, currently the market has a positive momentum and most brands in this industry are performing well. Hilton is amongst the largest hospitality companies in the world, and we are committed to be well involved in tapping the Indian opportunity and growing our presence over the coming years.
Your top three pieces of advice to maintain workplace ethics in the hospitality industry.
I believe that a working environment needs to have a DNA based on openness, transparency and honest feedback – amongst other traits. An organisation that displays these traits strongly will have the ability to build excellent teams to deliver exceptional results.
Hilton as a brand has had many innings in India – what have been the learnings?
Without dwelling in the past, decisions at that point in time were made considering the business demands, I would like to focus on the ‘here & future’ roadmap and opportunity for Hilton in India. We are a very strong Hospitality company with a legacy of 100 years. Our brand portfolio resonates well with millions of guests across the world. We have best in class resources, infrastructure, teams and unparalleled experiences of serving guests over 100 years. Given this powerful armoury, we focussed on increasing our presence in India (given the market opportunity) and we believe that our guests - both travelling to India and travellers within India, will have the opportunity to experience the best in class services of our portfolio of Hilton brands. However, we will very thorough (in our approach) in aligning with the right opportunity, market presence and segmentation and about bringing increasing business value to our Owners before introducing new brands or increasing our existing portfolio.
Tell us about our expansion plans in India?
We are currently 17 trading hotels in India and we are well on course to double our presence in the next few years. However, our only focus in not just about increasing our presence. We believe, expansion has to be based on market need, business returns, and as well as an opportunity to serve the Hilton Guests at the right place with the right Brand. We are constantly exploring the opportunity to bring more brands from our global portfolio. In the near future, I do believe that our guests in India will have the pleasure of experiencing the services of some of our brands – Hampton by Hilton & Tru by Hilton. Over and above this, Indian luxury traveller is also ready to receive our flagship luxury brand Waldorf Astoria. Within our (India) existing portfolio, we have two luxury Conrad properties and we do believe the Conrad & Hilton brands will also expand to more cities and locations in the country.
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